Over these last few weeks, we have been looking at the Syrian refugee crisis and how our network should respond in the light of the gospel. We also asked the question: What if? – seeing that positioning ourselves to help people from a background in Islam has far-reaching consequences for us and for those we help.
Today I’d like to update you on a response from an anonymous church in our network. The church is not large – two services of around 150 people on a Sunday. It is not rich – its members are ordinary folk from all walks of life who love Jesus, each other and the world that Jesus came to save. They are currently raising funds to send a team and purchase a facility for a church-plant in an urban priority area in their city. It is a beautiful, ordinary manifestation of the body of Christ. A simple reminder that it is through the local manifestation of his body that Jesus intends to fill all things with his power and glory (Ephesians 4:10) through the word ministry he gives to the church (Ephesians 4.11) so that the church, speaking the truth of the gospel in love (Ephesians 4:15) might build itself up in love (Ephesians 4.16). An anonymous church.
The church was blessed beyond their hopes in their gift-day. People were generous. And generosity flowed out of generosity, grace out of grace. They tithed their gift-day lump sum for the new plant to give to the Syrian refugee crisis. An Acts 29 church in Edinburgh, Scotland – Grace Church Leith – has been involved in setting up Edinburgh Churches for Sanctuary. This is a group of local churches who are working together to advocate for, support, and welcome Syrian refugees into their city and church communities. They are currently raising funds to employ a part time worker who can help coordinate and support the work the churches are doing, from liaising with the local government and other charities to providing practical care and friendship to arriving refugees. Antalya Protestant Church, in the midst of real terrorist attacks and plausible death threats, is involved in the logistics and delivery of a aid program for the more than 10,000 refugees in Antalya alone. The gift from our anonymous church will make a real difference in the delivery of these two programs both financially and because it is a tangible demonstration of gospel solidarity.
This blog is an invitation to trace with me the flow of grace in this story. Grace from God to the church in the gospel, from the church to the urban church-planting team, from the church-planting team to the global needs of God’s church and the world. The churches in Scotland and Turkey are, in turn, both recipients and channels of God’s grace to the refugees. It is worth underlining this point. It is because the gospel is preached and believed in this church that the people respond with grace and generosity which overflows. If you want to reach the Syrian refugees, preach the gospel and plant churches!
It is because the gospel is preached and believed in the church that people respond with grace and generosity which overflows
O’Brien’s commentary on Ephesians 4 sums it up :
Christ now sets out to accomplish the goal of filling all things by supplying his people with everything necessary to foster the growth and perfection of the body (Ephesians 4:13). Having achieved dominion over all the powers through his victorious ascent, he sovereignly distributes gifts to the members of his body. The building of the body is inextricably linked with his intention of filling the universe with his rule, since the church is his instrument in carrying out his purposes for the cosmos.
If Acts 29 is to be known for its humility, it will be because of anonymous churches from across the globe living out the gospel in all its beauty, so that the manifold wisdom of God – not a particular church, not a particular leader – is displayed to the watching world and the universe.